Judge upholds New York’s early voting law

A judge has ruled that New York’s early voting law is constitutional.

A group of Republican lawmakers and GOP and Conservative party leaders had sued over the law passed by the Legislature in June 2023. The law granted all New Yorkers the right to vote by mail during the early voting period up to 10 days before Election Day.

The plaintiffs argued that the law was unconstitutional on the grounds that the constitution requires that all voters vote in person at their polling place unless they fall into two exceptions where absentee voting is allowed.

However, supporters of the law said that the Legislature has the authority to set the manner and method of voting.

In an 11-page decision on Monday, Albany Supreme Court Judge Christina Ryba upheld the law, noting that the state constitution permits the Legislature to create laws to provide special accommodations for certain categories of voters who are unable to appear at their polling place.

“It in no way limits the Legislature’s inherent plenary power or constitutional authority to enact laws that generally provide for voting methods other than by ballot.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul praised the decision in a statement.

“The right to vote is sacred – a right that generations of Americans have fought to defend. Today’s ruling reaffirms the constitutionality of New York’s early vote by mail legislation, a critical initiative that will improve citizen participation and expand access to the ballot box for all eligible voters. Despite the best efforts of its opponents, democracy has once again prevailed in New York.”

U.S. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, called the decision wrong and promised to appeal. She said that the state constitution requires a constitutional amendment to expand absentee ballot voting. That was why an amendment was proposed in 2021 but rejected at the ballot box.

“Now Albany Democrats continue to shamelessly believe they are above the law and that just because they changed the name from absentee ballot to mail-in ballot, they don’t need to follow the constitution,” she said in a statement.